I have a confession to make. I am a father who does not like Father’s Day.
It’s not because of the ugly ties or coffee mugs that seem to be the favorite gifts on this day, but it is because of something much deeper and more important for me. I do not like Father’s Day, because it reminds me of the pain of never knowing my own father and having a difficult, perhaps sometimes abusive, relationship with my step-father.
Most of Father’s Day, for me, is about getting through the day. It is a busy day of celebration and worship, but one where I try not to think about my own hurt or loss. Even as I am now a father and enjoy nothing more than being with my son on Father’s Day, I still struggle with finding a reason to celebrate on the Third Sunday of June.
I know I am not alone. Father’s Day is difficult for many, either because of fathers who are no longer present or fathers who were not fathers to their children. If you are like me, though, you are asking how do we celebrate this day for fathers when our fathers were never there?
Don’t Hide from the Day. Find Someone to Thank.
I was one of the lucky ones among those with an absent father. I had men in my life who were like a father to me. They were men who taught me, loved me, and supported me when I needed it the most.
Among those men was my grandfather. I think of him, in many ways, as my own father. He all but served in that role for me. He taught me how to drive. (Those who have driven with me can thank my “drafting” habits on him.) He shared his love of auto racing with me. He inspired me to work hard. He was there when I sat the bench for sport after sport and traveled with me to visit colleges. I owe a lot to him.
As I do to many others. Men who gave me the ability to laugh at myself. Men who gave me an appreciation for the world. Men who inspired my faith. I would not be who I am today without these influences.
For those of us who do not have a father in our life, finding someone who is like a father to us is important. Those people in our life are worth celebrating. They are worth expressing our thanks to on this day. They took it upon themselves to step into the absence and offer something that could not be provided by someone else.
Be a Parent and Example to Our Own Children
Before my son was born, one of the things I struggled with was how would I be a father when my father was not there for me? What would I do? How would I be a parent? Would he want me as his dad? These were all questions I deeply wrestled with.
As I wrestled with these questions I knew my son needed me. He needed me to be a dad. It is scary to be a parent. I know I do not always get it right, but I want nothing more than to always be there for my son.
For those who have had absent fathers and are blessed to have children, the best thing you can do on this day is to give to your children what you never had. If you are a father … be a father to your children. Be there for them. Teach them. Love them unconditionally. Never let them know the feeling you experienced in your life. Give them that joy of your presence every day.
Love Your True Father
The one place where I know my father’s absence affected me the most was in regards to my own self-confidence. A recurring question has often been this: If my own father would not love me, why would anyone else? Even more, if my own father would not love me, why would God love me?
Not having a father who was an example of unconditional love made me question the Father’s love for me. For most of my life, I saw the Father as someone looking down at me, looking to judge me, and looking to take his love away from me.
As I have grown, I have come to trust in the joy of God’s unconditional love for me and to know the Father’s joy in me. It is a trust that came with the acknowledgement that even though I did not have an earthly father present in my life, my Heavenly Father was never absent. He was always there. He was always present. He always loved me.
That is the joy and a love we whose fathers were not there can claim. Even though our fathers were absent, God never was. On this Father’s Day, that gives us the greatest reason to hope and to celebrate.
For all who have no fathers on this Father’s Day, my heart and prayers go out to you. Know that you are not alone and know that there are people in your life who love you no matter what. More than that, know that the Father loves you no matter what.